Computer Video News - October 2003

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Canopus MPEG encoders cut hardware link

Canopus's internal and external analogue-to-MPEG-1/2 hardware encoders work with any modern Win2K/XP PC

Editors who don't use Canopus editing cards can now take advantage of the company's well-proven hardware MPEG encoding, following the launch of the company's MPEGPRO range.
At present, the range consists of two £410 (inc VAT) analogue-to-MPEG-1/2 real-time solutions - one on a PCI card (the MVR), the other an external box (the EMR) that connects by USB 1.1 or 2.0.
Each has inputs for S-video (mini DIN), composite video and L/R audio (three phonos) and uses Canopus's MediaCruise software to control conversions to MPEG-1 or MPEG-2. MediaCruise offers features such as advanced pre-filtering, one-pass variable bit-rate encoding (1MBit/sec to 15MBit/sec), and on-screen monitoring of incoming footage.
The converters - said to be scalable up to full-D1 resolution video - support MPEG Layer 2 audio, plus MPEG-2 Main Profile at Main Level (I, B, P frames) and I-frame-only encoding.
Image pre-filtering uses three notable technologies. There is a frame synchroniser that buffers the incoming signal to provide a constant, synchronised signal to the MPEG encoder chip. There's also digital noise reduction that's said to detect noise in the incoming analogue signal and eliminate it before it's encoded. And, for NTSC video (but not PAL) incoming S-video is separated into RGB to produce claimed cleaner picture quality. Other features include time-base correction and AGC (automatic gain control) for adjusting jittery pictures and audio levels.
As well as MediaCruise, Canopus includes a lite version of Ulead's DVD Workshop for disc authoring and burning, plus a suite of three MPEG software tools - MpegCutter for trimming MPEG video; MpegExplorer for searching and previewing MPEG files; and MpegRe-encoder for 'high-speed' encoding of high bit-rate MPEG files to lower bit-rates and file sizes.
Minimum system requirements are said to be Windows XP or 2000; a 866MHz PIII or 900MHz Athlon processor; 128MByte RAM; and a free USB port for the EMR box or spare PCI slot for the MVR board.

Canopus UK, 0118 921 0150;

Set-top Panasonic DVD

DVD-R/-RAM recorder range includes two with hard drives

Four set-top DVD-R/-RAM recorders make up Panasonic's DMR range. Two have hard disks; all have TV tuners and one-month/16-programme timers.
The established DMR-HS2EBS (street price £670 inc VAT) has a 40GByte hard drive reckoned to hold 52 hours of material, but is set to be replaced by the £900 DMR-E100EBS with an 80GByte drive. Each has DV input and offers two-way selective transfer of recordings between HDD and DVD-RAM.
Recorders without hard drives are the DMR-E50EBS (£320) - a replacement for the E30 - and the £420 DMR-E60EBS. The extra for the E60 buys a DV-input and another feature shared with the HDD models - a PC Card slot (Type II) for JPEG stills.
A nice touch with the E60 and the two hard-disk models is DV auto record mode - allowing DV footage to be recorded (along with a playlist) direct to DVD and, in the case of the HS2 and E100, to hard disk, too.
All models have four main recording modes - SP (1hr on a 4.7GByte disc), LP (2hr), XP (4hr) and EP (6hr) - plus FR (Flexible Recording). FR automatically adjusts the data-rate of time-controlled recordings or inter-disk transfers to ensure that they'll fit the space available on a DVD or hard disk.
Recordings can be made to 8cm or 12cm DVD-RAM discs, or 12cm DVD-Rs. All models are said to play DVD-Video, CD-Audio, Video CD and CD-R/-RW media - including MP3 formatted discs.
The PC Card slot (Type II) allows the play back from an SD Memory card in an adaptor of individual JPEG stills or slideshows in resolutions from 320x240 pixels up to a claimed 6,144x4,096. The E60 and E100 also have additional SD Memory card slots for uncompressed TIFs.
Sockets common across the range include inputs/outputs for S-video (mini-DIN), composite video and L/R audio (phono), plus a fully-wired Scart with input/outputs for RGB, S-video and composite video.
Another shared feature is Time Slip simultaneous recording/playback. This allows recordings to be watched from any point while the recording is still in progress, and has been enhanced with a picture-in-picture effect, for keeping an eye on the current recording point.
Other features available across the range are a Direct Navigator content list, for searching through and managing recordings; 1.3x normal search speed (quick view) playback with audio; and a bit-rate meter.

Panasonic, 08705 357357;

JVC video competition

£4,100 and a HD camcorder as top prize in JVC competition

JVC is accepting video entries for the JVC Tokyo Video Festival (TVF) 2004 until the closing date of October 10, 2003.
The Video Grand Prize top award includes £4,100, a JVC GR-HD1 High Definition MiniDV camcorder, a trophy, a certificate, and a round-trip to Japan to collect the award on February 14, 2004.
The second prize is £3,100, plus an HD camcorder and return travel for the awards ceremony. Twenty-eight other entrants will each receive an Excellence Award of £600 and a certificate. To mark the launch of JVC's GR-HD1, there will also be a special award - a plaque and certificate - for the submission that makes best use of HD features.
Entries can be on any subject, but must be no longer than 20 minutes, and submitted on MiniDV, S-VHS, VHS or D-VHS tape.
All UK entries must be sent to Lucy Jakes/Jeffrey Hyland, JVC (UK) Ltd, JVC Business Park, Priestley Way, London NW2 7BA. More details and application forms can be found at:
JVC (UK), 020 8208 3282;

Philips sticks with +R/+RW

Philips ATAPI burner writes to DVD+R (4x) and DVD+RW (2.4x), but not -R/-RW

While Sony, NEC, Pioneer and others are all launching +/- four-way ATAPI DVD burners (see reviews starting p38), Philips' latest offering is a + only writer, albeit one that undersells most four-way competitors.
Even so, the DVDRW416K (SRP £179 inc VAT), is said to be able to burn to the latest fast media - 4x DVD+R and 2.4x DVD+RW - and also write to CD-R at 16x and CD-RW at 10x. Read speeds are given as 12x for DVD, and 40x for CD.
The drive comes with Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 Basic - a lite version of Roxio's latest burning software for Windows (review, July 2003, p40). The rest of the kit is pretty much as expected, taking in a quick install guide, an audio cable, mounting screws and a blank DVD+R disc.
There's also interactive video instructions on how to install the drive in a PC - which, hopefully, will work better than those with the Philips DVDRW228, a burner that got a distinct CV thumbs down (review, Feb 03, p36).

Philips, 020 8665 6350;

Apple OS 10.3

Latest OS X - V10.3 - boasts over 100 new features, but isn't 64-bit

Apple is scheduling the next major release of its Mac OS X operating system for later this year, promising that OS 10.3 (SRP £99, inc VAT) will have over 100 new features. But, contrary to expectations brought on by the arrival of 64-bit PowerMac G5 computers (news, Sep 03, p6), it won't be a 64-bit operating system.
The most obvious new feature is a more user-friendly interface for Finder. This looks much like OS X's native music-creation program, iTunes, and is not dissimilar to Windows Explorer. The sidebar on the left of an OS 10.3 Finder window has two sections. The top section lists all available drives and network volumes, plus iDisk (online storage space on Apple servers). The bottom section holds quick links to favourite folders - with more added simply by dragging and dropping - and files can be browsed in list or column view. Clicking on a triangular eject symbol dismounts drives without dragging icons to the Trash.
An instant search is said to bring up related files as soon as a keyword is entered - selecting any file in the list brings up a flowchart at the bottom of the Finder showing where the file is located.
Fast user-switching is said to be improved, allowing multiple users sharing a single Mac to quickly log on to their own dedicated desktop without affecting programs already opened by other users.
Exposé provides impressive screen organiser options using OS X's Quartz graphics engine to scale-down and tile application windows and folders to fit the screen, or clear the desktop with the flick of the mouse (or click of a function key). Single-clicking on a scaled-down window returns it to its full size. Pixlet is described as an integrated studio-grade Codec that reproduces HD-quality video playback without artefacts, and was added following requests by film animators Pixar.
The new PDF file viewer, Preview, supports the PDF 1.4 format, and is claimed to render PDFs faster than Adobe Acrobat under Windows. It has an indexed text search facility, and allows text to be copied to the Clipboard. Preview also converts PostScript and EPS files to PDF for printing.
iChat has become iChat AV, and is for audio or video conferencing with any webcam-adaptable FireWire-equipped video camera - including, of course, Apple's new lightweight, tube-shaped aluminium iSight camera (£119), pictured left.
Other OS 10.3 features include automatic synchronising of files between the hard drive and iDisk on a .Mac Web server; FileVault 128-bit AES encryption of home directories for improved security; enhanced Mail with drag-and-drop addressing and a Safari-based engine for displaying HTML formatted emails; integrated faxing from any print-capable program; Font Book font management; and XCode developer tools.
As with previous OS X versions, V10.3 is Unix-based. But 10.3 is reckoned to have a faster underlying Unix file system and improved NFS/UFS file locking; and to include FreeBSD 5.0, Linux APIs and IPv6. Connection to Windows networks is said to be much improved, too, as is browsing of SMB servers, and access to shared printers.

Apple UK, 0800 783 4846;

Edius gets a makeover

First upgrade of Canopus's video editing program addresses some obvious shortcomings

Canopus is set to release the first upgrade (V1.5) of its Edius video editing software (news, June 2003, p6) as a free download for registered users.
Version 1.5, due early September (and with an SRP of £469, inc VAT, for new users), looks to address a number of the odd shortcomings of V1. It's said to have improved clip bins and clip searching capabilities, and will allow selection (and deletion) of multiple clips on the timeline, plus re-linking to missing clips.
Edius 1.5 is reckoned to offer real-time support for 32-bit uncompressed video with alpha channels, allowing clips made in effects packages such as Ulead's Cool 3D Production Studio (review, July 2003, p28) to be inserted directly onto the video track and played back in real-time.
Key features of Edius include unlimited video/audio tracks and graphic/ title layers; RT video filters and 3D transitions; voiceover recording; audio waveform display; unlimited undo/redo levels; and output to MPEG-1/2, Windows Media, RealVideo and QuickTime from the included ProCoder LE Edius Edition. It also offers a range of editing techniques - three-point, four-point, ripple, slip-slide and split.
As with V1, the new version runs only on certain Canopus hardware - DVStorm, DVStorm2, DVRex RT or DVRex RT Pro - but an OCHI-compliant version for standard FireWire hardware is promised at some point.

Canopus UK, 0118 921 0150;

80GByte PocketDrive

LaCie portable hard disk drives with FireWire and USB 2.0

LaCie is adding an 80GByte drive to its PocketDrive range of portable FireWire/USB external hard disks. The newcomer, which can hold around six hours of DV footage, has USB 2.0 and standard FireWire (IEEE 1394a) connections and is set to sell for £316 (inc VAT).
As with other PocketDrive HDDs, the 80GByte model works with Mac and Windows PCs, has a distinctive blue protective bumper, measures just 87(w) x 25(h) x 143(d)mm, and weighs 355g.
The unit, containing a 4,200rpm drive with 2MByte cache, is said to offer transfer speeds of up to 25MByte/sec (write) and 35MByte/sec (read) for FireWire; and up to 25MByte/sec read/write for USB 2.0. It can be powered from a six-pin FireWire port, but comes with a universal international power supply for use with four-pin FireWire ports or USB. Also in-pack are FireWire and USB 2.0 cables, and LaCie's Silverlining disk utilities software for Mac/Windows and SilverKeeper backup software for Mac.

LaCie, 020 7872 8000;

SmartSound, smarter pricing

SmartSound music-creation software prices cut across the board to coincide with launch of SonicFire Pro V3

SmartSound has updated its SonicFire Pro Mac and Windows music track creation software to V3 and cut the price by £80 to £200 (inc VAT).
This reduction is mirrored in the pricing of the company's entry-level music track creation offering, Movie Maestro (review, March 2003, p50), down £5 to £35, and across the full range of music library CDs. Low-end 22kHz libraries which don't offer public-performance rights have been chopped in price from £28 to £20, while all other 22kHz libraries have been reduced from £59 to £35, and 44.1kHz versions have come down from £99 to £70 - or £65 each if buying three or more.
Version 3 of SonicFire Pro has a redesigned and enhanced Maestro wizard with better search capabilities; the ability to preview, buy and download single audio tracks from the SmartSound library for instant use; an enhanced Librarian; and improved file export to Premiere and Final Cut Pro editing software.
Also on the features list are automatic detection and loading of any new SmartSound CD; improved file trimming capabilities; more frame-rate options (now 10, 15, 20, 24, 25 or 30fps); an Assistant for guiding newcomers to the program; the ability to rename each block in Blocking Mode; faster start-up; and automatic program update checks when connected to the Internet.
Upgrades to SFPro 3 cost £79, whether from Version 2 (review, February 2002, p68) or any SmartSound QuickTracks plug-in - such as are built into Pinnacle Studio and Adobe Premiere. UK distributor Datavision is also offering two SonicFire Pro 3 packages. One, at £380, bundles SFPro 3 with any three 44.1kHz CDs. The other, at £2,932, has the software plus the complete range of 52 SmartSound 44.1kHz libraries and a Bryco CD Storage Rack - bringing the price per library to £52.54. Datavision is also offering free delivery on all SmartSound orders until the end of August.

Datavision (UK distributor), 01525 406886;

Casablanca Avio - Mark II

DVD and FireWire options in revamped Casablanca Avio II one-box editor range

The four one-box editors in Macro Systems' Casablanca Avio II range are led by a pair of units with built-in DVD-R/-RW burners.
One of the pair, the CAS415, is £1,775, the other (CAS405) £1,420. Both use Macro System's Arabesk V1.3a DVD authoring/burning software with the DVD-DICON MPEG-2 software encoder; the £335 extra for the 415 buys FireWire in/out capabilities.
Another model, also at £1,420, is the CAS410. This has FireWire (but no DVD), and the analogue in/outputs (S-video, composite video and L/R audio) common to all in the range.
The cheapest of the bunch is the £999 analogue-only CAS400. That's £264 more than the SRP of the current analogue-only Avio (the CAS100). This differential is reckoned to be because of the features that are standard across the Avio II range - ultra-quiet operation; a slightly faster (but unspecified-speed) processor (the 100 has a 233MHz CPU); a larger hard drive (40GByte, rather than 20GByte); and the fitting of a VGA socket, which allows each MkII to be used with a computer monitor as well as a TV set.

Hama (UK distributor), 01256 374700;
Macro System Digital Video, 00 49 2335 9600;

All-in-one Nero 6

Ahead Windows suite includes editing, authoring, backup, DVD playback and MPEG-4 encoding

Nero version 6 (£55 inc VAT) is hailed as a major upgrade to V5 of Ahead's CD/DVD burning software suite, thanks to the inclusion of CD/DVD authoring, basic video editing, data backup, DVD playback, and MPEG-4 audio encoding from a single interface.
The new, customisable StartSmart interface (with standard or expert modes) provides access to the twelve included Nero programs/tools - Burning Rom 6 CD/DVD burning; Express 6 wizard-guided disc burning; Nero Vision Express 2 video editing/authoring; InCD 4 packet writing; ShowTime DVD video/multimedia player (with MPEG-4 support); BackItUp data backup; Cover Designer label designing; SoundTrax audio mixing; Wave Editor 2 audio editing/recording; Toolkit drive tuning and diagnostics utilities; Media Player audio playback; and Image Drive virtual CD/DVD drive.
From StartSmart, the user selects the desired task and the appropriate program launches automatically. A neat touch, if it works, is that Nero 6 now has a Smart Detect tool that's said to automatically recognise the CD/DVD burner and its properties - even if the drive came to market after the software itself. There's also claimed support for simultaneous writing to up to four burners.
Vision Express 2 offers authoring for VCD, SVCD, MiniDVD and DVD, plus basic storyboard and timeline editing capabilities (including video capturing, editing, titling and effects). Also listed are animated menus, the addition of background music, and the creation of slideshows. A DVD plug-in is included for DVD/SVCD encoding with Vision Express and for SVCD encoding in Burning Rom.
Nero BackItUp has a wizard-based interface for scheduled, automatic data backups that can span multiple CDs or DVDs. InCD 4 packet writing software allows rewritable media (DVD-RW, DVD+RW and CD-RW) to be used for drag-and-drop data storage - much like a hard disk. It also includes support for Mount Rainier/EasyWrite discs.
Ahead also provides Nero Digital - described as a High Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC) plug-in for MPEG-4 audio encoding at variable bit-rates. This is said to offer high-speed compression and direct MPEG-4 ripping, burning, playback and editing. An MPEG-4 video Codec plug-in for Vision Express is promised later in the year.
Minimum requirements for Nero 6 are Windows 98SE; a 500MHz PIII CPU (1.6GHz for capture to DVD video); and 128MByte of RAM. Upgrading details for previous Nero versions are at:

Ahead Software, 00 49 724 891 1800;


Recent features...
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Reviewed in October's issue:

Final Cut Pro 4
VariZoom VZ-Rock & StealthZoom
Discreet Cleaner XL
DVD Burners Group Test

In October's news:

Canopus MPEG encoders cut hardware link
Set-top Panasonic DVD
JVC video competition
Philips sticks with +R/+RW
Apple OS 10.3
Edius gets a makeover
80GByte PocketDrive
SmartSound, smarter pricing
Casablanca Avio - Mark II
All-in-one Nero 6

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